A first failed United Kingdom asylum seeker has gone to Rwanda under a voluntary removals programme.

Under the scheme, announced last month, migrants whose claims are rejected are offered up to £3,000 to move to the East African country. It is separate to the forced returns scheme the government announced two years ago. That scheme, which has been beset by delays, is due to begin by mid-July.

The London Sun, which first reported the story, said the unnamed man was flown out of the UK on Monday on a commercial flight. Officials would not be drawn on any details, other than to say the asylum seeker had exhausted all rights to be in the UK.

The Rwandan government confirmed that a failed asylum seeker arrived on Tuesday on a flight from London.

Labour said the move showed ministers were desperate to get a flight off to Rwanda before Thursday’s local elections in England. The scheme announced in March is understood to be a variation of an existing voluntary returns scheme for failed asylum seekers. The scheme will also be opened up to other people with no right to remain in the UK, and foreign criminals.

The Home Office said payments under the current scheme can pay for temporary accommodation in the destination country, or education costs, or the cost of setting up a business.

Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, suggested the fact someone had volunteered to go to Rwanda undermined the argument that it was not a safe country. In response to criticism of the £3,000 paid for relocation, she told Sky News there was no ‘cost-free option’ for border control.

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According to official statistics, 19,253 people with no right to remain in the UK were voluntarily removed from the UK last year.

Of these, 3,319 received a ‘reintegration package’ or flights paid by the Home Office.

Jacqueline McKenzie, partner and head of immigration at Leigh Day Solicitors, said she was aware from contacts that many people had recently been offered this package to go to Rwanda, including some very vulnerable individuals.

“I am surprised, given the amount of calls that have been made, that more people have not gone, if it is a good idea,” she told BBC Radio 4’s today programme.

Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called news of the voluntary return a “pre-election gimmick,” adding taxpayers were “forking out £3,000 for a volunteer to board a plane.

“The Tories are so desperate to get any flight off to Rwanda before the local elections that they have now just paid someone to go,” she added.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey, said the individual went to Rwanda under ‘an old scheme’, which “won’t stop the boats. They have had to pay someone £3,000. There is a suspicion out there that this is about an election – it is not about seriously stopping the boats,” he said, in a reference to the local elections taking place in England today.